Top Ten of 2020

Read our most popular science stories of the year

As 2020 comes to an end, it is a good time to gather our most-read CompassLive stories from the past year. Each one highlights the work of USDA Forest Service scientists at the Southern Research Station.

We hope you enjoy reading this collection, which includes the most popular of 2020 plus a few more that you may have missed.


A historical botanical illustration of a ginseng plantAmerican Ginseng, in the Forest and in the Marketplace

What can a plant have in common with a marine fishery? This research is the first to show that a non-timber forest product can have a backward-bending supply curve. 


Timing Prescribed Fire to Maximize Longleaf Pine Growth

When longleaf pine seedlings are so short that a prescribed fire is likely to scorch all of their needles, fire should be applied between March and May, so the young trees will have time to recover before winter.


Two New Species of Crayfish Discovered in Alabama and Mississippi

The Southeast is home to more freshwater crayfish species than anywhere else in the world, but discovering two new southeastern crayfish species — while searching for just one — is remarkable. The research also helps us understand the size of a species’ range, a fundamental part of conservation work. 


New Manager’s Guide for Controlling Hemlock Woolly Adelgids

The guide synthesizes years of research to provide best practices for controlling hemlock woolly adelgids. The strategy is to prolong the health of some hemlock trees with insecticides, while, on other trees, establishing adelgid-eating insects.


Electronic Noses Detect Emerald Ash Borer Larvae

It is now possible to detect emerald ash borers early, while an infested ash tree is still alive. Electronic noses have revolutionized the field of pathology, and SRS is on the forefront of applying this technology to forests and forest pests. 


Black Locust & Drought

Black locust makes its own nitrogen fertilizer – and can share it with other tree species. However, this field study suggests that drought diminishes black locust’s ability to fix nitrogen. 


White Oak Regeneration in Canopy Gaps

A study on a silviculture practice called femelschlag is one of the first of its kind, and over 700 white oak seedlings were recently planted on the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina.


Genetics of Shortleaf and Longleaf Pine in Seed Orchards

Tree planters, seed orchard managers,  silviculturists, and geneticists are working together to make longleaf and shortleaf pine restoration possible.


Hardwood-Cypress Swamps, Unlikely Fire Hazards

Managing the border between swamps and pine flatwoods is critical – during extreme fire weather, these shallow hardwood-cypress swamps can ignite and release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.


Highlighting Heirs’ Property Ownership and Land Loss

Millions of acres in the South are owned by multiple heirs, which makes it difficult to manage forests effectively and puts owners – who are often Black – at higher risk of losing their land. SRS research is helping address this problem while promoting sustainable forestry on African American family lands. 


Here are a few more articles that you might have missed – from water supply to managing forests with prescribed fire or for drought resilience.

SRS scientists work with and for many partners, including the National Forest System. And they work in many fields – silviculture, hydrology, climate science, wildlife biology, economics, ecology, and more. The range of featured stories is a testament to this expansive focus.

Over the past fiscal year, SRS researchers have published more than 500 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and reports. All of these publications are freely available.

CompassLive has existed as an online science magazine since 2012. It was founded in 2001 as a print magazine called Compass. Read more and subscribe!